Haunted Houses' Chronicles

Haunted Houses’ Chronicles – Vol.1, Chapter 10

This house wasn’t a private house, rather, it was a warehouse converted from an originally state-owned canteen. But because of its great location inside a large city in the central region, Qin Yiheng and I both felt that we could change it into a car wash center. So the potential was still relatively large.

There had been no death in this house since its early days, but a staff of the canteen suddenly went missing from work after taking a small sum of money in the safe. Nothing was ever heard from him after that; whether he was dead or alive, no one knew. 

It wasn’t until a month later that the staff appeared in Tianjin and jumped straight into an oncoming train, killing himself on the spot. When he died, he carried no money, no belongings and even no ID card. However, his family said that he didn’t show any signs of wanting to die. At the time, he told his young daughter that he wanted to go out to buy food and didn’t take any luggage with him. 

Thereafter, the state-owned enterprise was restructured, and the canteen was converted into a warehouse that was leased to a steel factory.

The matter calmed down as the years passed, until recent years, when the same incident occurred in this steel factory. A newly recruited worker stole a portion of the steel from the factory one night and fled the next day. The outcome was unexpected: this worker also ended up dying in Tianjin, even killing himself in the same manner as the previous canteen staff!

Because the story of the canteen staff used to spread widely in the city, when the worker died, people retold the long-forgotten incident and easily made the connection between the two. Later, the steel factory started to lose money for unknown reasons and declared bankruptcy not long after. Following that, a car wash center was opened, and as things would repeat themselves, the center ended up losing lots of money. Many people said the warehouse must be evil, for one business failed after another. No one was willing to rent the place anymore.

There were many reasons for a shop to lose money, say, poor management, being squeezed out of commercial competition, etc., and even factors including feng shui and Chinese metaphysics1. In any case, the reasons could be as diverse as trees in a forest. If a shop lost money, it was unlikely that ‘unclean things’ disturbed the place. The noteworthy point was that ‘unclean things’ rarely ever took away money because money had no use for them. Of course, this had not ruled out money-loving ghosts.

I actually heard a rumour early on that a scrooge was so stingy he could squeeze water from a rock. The man suddenly died of a heart attack one day, and his children wanted to divide the family assets but couldn’t find his savings book. They searched around for a long time. Of course, we couldn’t forget the possibility that the old man had hidden the passbook before his death, but one thing remained strange: when the children burned a lot of paper money for the old man and mumbled to him that human world’s money had no use to him anyway, so he might as well give them his money and they would send him underworld’s money in exchange, the situation turned around. The next time they tried to find the passbook, it was located right away. This rumour was spread around so many rounds, so I had no idea if people had spiced it up, but I chose to believe that it was true.

But this house apparently had nothing to do with any scrooges, so we had to see it by ourselves to reveal the truth. 

Qin Yiheng and I simply prepared some luggage and set off. Along the way, we discussed and both felt that this warehouse would not be too difficult a case. Firstly, nothing particularly strange had happened in place, and secondly, although two persons who worked there died, they didn’t die inside the warehouse, so it wouldn’t be fair to label the place as a ‘haunted house’.

The main reason why no one was interested in this warehouse was because they were scared of losing money if they opened a business here. Well, there were too many reasons to lose money, and the worst case scenario in this situation was likely because of feng shui. Qin Yiheng and I came up with the idea that, perhaps we should buy this, then lease it to an atheistic owner to take over. With that, we could at least make a minimal profit.

The sun just rose when we landed in the area. After getting off the plane, we went directly to the owner and negotiated briefly. The other person named his price even before showing us the warehouse. I totally didn’t expect him to give such a high price and hesitated a little.

Qin Yiheng, on the other hand, wanted to see the warehouse before making the final decision, so the three of us headed to the place. The warehouse wasn’t small at all; adding up all its odd corners, the area came to nearly 500 square meters. It felt especially empty when we walked in because there was nothing inside. After Qin Yiheng took one round and nodded at me, which meant that the place was indeed ‘clean’.

Truth be told, after so many times of doing this, I also began to be able to feel it. Often, when there was a problem with the house, people would have this oppressed feeling as they entered even though they couldn’t quite say that the place was uncomfortable. This warehouse didn’t give off that feeling. Although I was very interested in this house now, I could only pretend to be deep in thoughts, for I would want to press the price to be lower.

The owner was a man in his forties. He was neither in a hurry nor willing to reduce the price. I told him we would need to go back and think about it, then reply him later. It actually wasn’t an excuse this time, because we really needed to think about it. At the very least, we had to hear each other’s opinions.

Back at the hotel, Qin Yiheng picked up a calculator to estimate the amount. Judging by the current selling prices of the local shophouses, we still would make a profit even if we agreed with the owner’s offer. But we had to first understand why past businesses didn’t flourish in this warehouse.

Qin Yiheng said, “From the perspective of feng shui, there’s no problem with the outside environment. Moreover, the place is pretty empty; there aren’t even any tables, chairs or partitions. We can conclude that feng shui isn’t the issue here. So, it’s clear most of the losses are due to problems within the business itself.”

He continued, “But, after summing our prior lesson, I feel that we shouldn’t hastily come to a decision. Let’s wait and see first, in case there might be something that we’ve missed out.” 

Then the two of us discussed the incidents of the two persons eloping with the money from their workplace and ultimately choosing to commit suicide by jumping in front of a train. I was very worried because although the two deaths were separated by a long period, it didn’t seem like a coincidence. Qin Yiheng however was very optimistic, saying that there were too many things in this world that shared the same path, but my worry wasn’t uncalled for either. It could indeed be possible that there was a connection between those two persons, but we thought about it, they were not far apart in age. There was no way the second dead person was the reincarnation of the first. 

The price this time was surely much higher than we expected, so we actually had some hesitation. After pondering the decision for a long time, we still couldn’t arrive at the best course of action. Qin Yiheng then proposed that if we kept watch for a few more days, perhaps we might discover something. 

In the next few days of waiting, the two of us went to the warehouse every morning and evening and looked over from outside most of the time. As we watched and watched, I felt that there didn’t seem to be any resentment lingering in this place. It should be safe.

However, the moment we were ready to buy the warehouse, we discovered a bizarre thing. Now that we talked about it, that was quite a coincidence. That night, we were outside of the house to look over as usual when it happened to be Winter Clothes Day2. Many people were also burning paper money at the crossroads. Seeing that, Qin Yiheng took a breath of cold air and patted me on the shoulders, saying, “We are right to wait for a few days. Something is really odd about this warehouse.”

I totally didn’t get him. but I could guess he meant that the warehouse had something to do with those people who were burning the clothes.

I asked him, “What did you find?”

Qin Yiheng thought for a while and said, “I’m not so sure yet, but I found that all the paper money is all sent to this warehouse.”

I was stunned, “You mean to say someone in this warehouse is robbing all the underworld money?”

Qin Yiheng also thought that it was strange and he couldn’t pinpoint how such a thing might happen, unless we went in to see it now. The way he said it really made me want to escape half-way. Frankly speaking, although the previous experiences had made me less of a coward, I still instinctively had a fear of going into a house in the middle of the night to, probably, wait for a ghost to jump out.

Fortunately, he didn’t insist on going in and only affirmed that we shouldn’t buy this house, at least not now. Before leaving, Qin Yiheng bought some paper money and burnt it by the side of the road. 

“This is for the lone souls and ghosts that no one gives money to,” he explained. “Don’t do this like me. This is not some casual money that anyone can burn.”

I could only stay by the side and watch him, thinking carefully about what he claimed. Based on his deduction, all the money would actually be collected by this warehouse. Would that be the reason for all the business failures here? Was there indeed some ‘unclean thing’ in the warehouse that loved money so much that it robbed both the money from both yin and yang? Neither of us could really tell now.

In the end, we went back to the hotel and discussed it once more. Qin Yiheng came to a finding that when we went to the house previously and didn’t feel anything, no one was burning paper money or making offerings. Perhaps, ‘the thing’ inside only came on specific days. We should go back to the house to take a look the next day.

I agreed completely with what he said, because it would be at least daytime when we came back the next day. I wouldn’t have to worry about any ghosts jumping out.

Early the next morning, we pretended that we were still very interested in this house and called the owner to show us the place again. As the door opened, I thought that something felt different, but the warehouse stayed normal as it had been. The sun was shining brightly through the windows, and no matter how I looked at it, it really didn’t seem like a problematic place.

Qin Yiheng made one round as usual, yet this time he inspected very carefully. Still, nothing could be found. Completely stuck, we told the owner a simple excuse, pretending to go back to gather money then headed back to the hotel.

This time we were both utterly confused. No one thought that what wasn’t a haunted house in the first place turned out to be a huge problem. As he thought about it again and again, Qin Yiheng finally concluded that there might actually be a way. 

“We buy some paper money, then burn it at that crossroad tonight. This time, we will burn for our deceased relatives. Let’s see if anything would happen.”

Hearing this suggestion, I thought it might be a solution, but I was also worried about what to do if something went wrong.

He gave me some comforting words, ”Looking at the situation, even if there’s something, it’s likely only interested in the money. It won’t necessarily hurt humans.”

I felt slightly relieved as he said that. I gave the idea some thought, realising that this could be a good chance for me to make some offerings to my deceased grandpa. During the usual worship days, it was my family who took care of everything, so I rarely turned up myself. This time I should show some filial piety.

Right that afternoon, we went to buy a lot of paper money, then Qin Yiheng decided to also get a handful of wolfberries. He asked me to swallow them, saying that it could strengthen my yang energy and ensure that I wouldn’t accidentally attract a poor ghost3.

At night, the two of us set off to the street in front of the warehouse. At the crossroads, Qin Yiheng first drew a circle with an opening on the ground, then piled the paper money in the circle. He let me light the fire with a wooden stick – this was to, firstly, allow me to speak to my grandpa and send the money to him, and secondly, to make sure my grandpa would pay attention and confirm his ‘receipt’. 

The wind that night was quite strong, blowing all the paper dust into my face. I bore with it and continued until all the papers had been burnt through. Qin Yiheng stared at me the whole time, not a single word leaving his lips. As I was done, he gazed at the pile of ash, his brows furrowing. 

“What do you see?” I asked him.

“This isn’t what I expect,” he replied. “The paper money isn’t robbed. It’s taken.”

I didn’t get it at all. Was there a difference between being ‘robbed’ and being ‘taken’? Shouldn’t it mean that the money still ended up in someone else’s hands?

“It’s definitely not the same,” Qin Yiheng continued to explain. “Look at this from a literal perspective. If we apply ‘living human’ principles here, it’s illegal to rob something but totally legal to take something. Now do you get it?”

If he said it that way, then I roughly understood after thinking for a bit. “So, from what you say, just now what we encounter is in fact a ghost who simply comes to ‘take’ the money?”

Qin Yiheng nodded, “That’s exactly what I mean. The most important thing now is all the paper money, including other people’s paper money burnt at this crossroad, has gone to this warehouse.”

He continued saying, “Although I can’t see what is in that warehouse now, I suspect that this warehouse was a relay station of the underworld. Back in ancient times, a relay station is where men who deliver intelligence, documents, letters, etc. rest and exchange their horses. In fact, it’s similar to our modern-day post office.”

“If I guess it right, the money is all collected here, then the ghosts will distribute them to the intended recipients. Then it isn’t difficult to understand why all business couldn’t flourish here. The so-called ‘financial path’ that businesses believe in is, frankly speaking, an ‘yin path’. We can neither see it nor touch it.  The issue is, this place’s ‘yin path’ has been perpetually taken by the underworld, so any business’ financial path ends up being blocked. No matter how one lays out the feng shui, he is after all just a mere human. Unless he is fated to be a remarkably great man, daring to use a feng shui formation to take back the ‘yin path’ from the hands of the underworld servants will be too much of a fantasy.”

I thought hard about what he said. People who had burnt paper money for their ancestors before would know that in many places, the custom was to burn also a piece of paper or an envelope with the name of the recipient on it. Besides, most people would also burn some small money for lone souls and wandering ghosts while offering to their deceased relatives, in the hope that these ghosts wouldn’t ‘take away the money of their relatives.

According to Qin Yiheng, the burnt money would be collected here, then distributed properly to others. This indeed sounded like an efficient process, but none of us had ever seen it with our own eyes, so we couldn’t tell if it was really how things were done down there.

Now that I heard his explanation, I feel a little bit disappointed. Didn’t it mean that there would be no point buying this warehouse, for it would yield no profit anyway? Qin Yiheng also had a helpless look on his face. There was really no way out of this, since our capability would never be enough to intervene with the ‘yin path’. This money wasn’t for us to earn.

We stood by the side of the road and chatted until the cold became too much to bear, then we hurried back to the hotel. On the way back, I kept wondering about the deaths of those two persons. 

Qin Yiheng said, “They are already dead, and they died in another city. So if we want to know why they died, the only way is to summon their souls.” 

“But for these souls, the first problem is that it will be difficult and time-consuming to summon them. Secondly, I’m worried that it will bring us some troubles. This mystery isn’t worth the risk,” he explained. “However, now that we know the issue behind the warehouse, I can make a few guesses about those two persons.”

Firstly, the eight characters of those two persons must consist of more yin values, even though they might not necessarily be pure yin4. Perhaps, they were also having bad luck during that period, the kind of bad luck one would get if he went under the crotch of a lady with menstruation.

Secondly, the two were quite greedy and wanted to steal things that were public properties, but as ‘fate’ must have it, they caught the attention of the underworld servants. It was highly likely that their soul and spirit5 were later made to work for the underworld servants to help collect money into this warehouse. Gradually, their soul and spirit dispersed from the body and couldn’t return to the human world anymore. Perhaps their lifespan had also run out and they ended up dying on the yin path.

Upon touching this topic, Qin Yiheng explained further: Under what rules were roads or train tracks constructed? There were many variables including geographical area, terrain, policies and even funding, but there was one factor that would always be taken into account: feng shui. From the site selection of ancient Chinese capitals to the development of big and small roads, they all went through a lot of planning, calculations and numerical studies based on the principles of feng shui before being constructed. From there, an observation had been established: Whether it was an ancient capital or a mere road, no major disaster had ever wrecked havoc upon the place. This was the working of metaphysics, an area that remained mysterious and incomprehensible to most. Undeniably, there were many things about this area that we would never be able to rationalise.

The construction of each road, especially for those that had been around since ancient times, must have followed every single of such principles. And a road wasn’t just for people to walk on. So, the two persons seemed to die on the train track, but in fact, they died on the yin path.

_______

Michelle’s elaboration time! Bonus: I also have a few things to say.

What did Qin Yiheng mean by “the two persons in fact died on the yin path”?

As explained prior to that, their hun po were likely summoned to the underworld to help with the relay station. It is never a good thing to constantly have one’s hun po leaving the body. This decreases the person’s lifespan, and also, as theorised by Qin Yiheng, the two probably failed to return to the human world at one point and died on the yin path. Now, it doesn’t literally mean that they died on the yin path that crossed their workplace, because the yin path was after all not a tangible thing. Thus, in the human world, their hun po led the body to jump into a train track (also a type of ‘path’), a place that was strictly constructed based on the principles of feng shui. Through this connection, dying on the train track was equivalent to dying on the yin path. Think of it like this: feng shui principles act as a ‘connector’ between the human world and the underworld to harmonise the two’s energy, so via feng shui, the train track is connected to the yin path (does that make sense… I tried…)

By the way, I think Qin Yiheng just took the words right out of my mouth when he said that “There were many things about this area (metaphysisc) that we would never be able to rationalise.” This reveals a big thing about Qin Yiheng’s role in the novel: No, he isn’t someone who can give a 100% perfect answer to everything. Because, just as confusing as it is, metaphysics is not an exact science. You may be able to come up with an answer based on known principles, but what if there is a principle that has yet to be discovered? Or what if there are two contradicting principles that could arrive at the same outcome? (let’s recall Qin Yiheng’s proposed explanation for why the husband committed suicide in chapter 9).

In any case, these few initial chapters serve more as an introduction to metaphysics and feng shui in general, so we are often brought to the characters’ thought process and less-than-100%-certain theories (which are mostly based on actual principles that have been discovered in real life). Moving further, things will likely sound less uncertain and less confusing as we (hopefully) become more familiar with the concepts and the author also starts inventing his own principles.

Haunted Houses' Chronicles - Vol.1, Chapter 9
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annie
annie
8 months ago

Thank you for translating the chapters you did!! I totally understand your reasoning for dropping it and I wish you the best on future projects but I really enjoyed reading what you did translate! Thank you for your hard work<3

troubledsnow
troubledsnow
1 year ago

It’s at least a breath of fresh air that one of the MC is not some almight OP who knew every answer, which tbh the kind of MC that’s I like but can become stale when you stuck in this concept for long time.
Also, thank you for the translation XD

Ruka
Ruka
1 year ago

💙

Mariana Redondo
Mariana Redondo
1 year ago

Just love this novel… wondering if you are going to make more updates of new chapters…

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